60th Wagner
Obituary for Major General Robert Edwin Wagner (USA, RETIRED)

Major General Robert “Bob” Edwin Wagner died on August 14, 2013 in Smithfield, Virginia at the age of 78. General Wagner had a distinguished 33 year career in the United States Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam. The highlights of his career were his three years as the 60th Colonel of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, Germany; and his final assignment as the first Commanding General of Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he was responsible for the pre-commissioning training of all Army officers. He also commanded a tank battalion, an armored cavalry squadron, and served as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for the 1st Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with V device and 2 Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (Gold and Bronze). He was also awarded the William Dupuy Award in 2006 for services rendered to Cadet Command. Second only to his family, General Wagner cared passionately about the Unites States Army until the day he died.

General Wagner graduated in 1953 from Fairfax High School, where he met his beloved wife, Charlotte White Wagner, who passed away in 2011. After he graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1957 and married Charlotte, they began their 30-plus year adventure in the United States Army. In 1958, General Wagner successfully competed for a Regular Army commission at Fort Ord, California, and in the process fell in love with maneuver warfare, a love that never died. He was a brilliant tactician, and authored several influential articles on combined arms operations that were taught at TRADOC schools for many years, in particular The Warrior Manual for Mounted Combat. General and Mrs. Wagner were stationed in Georgia, California, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Virginia and Washington state. They also spent a total of 7 years in Germany. During their time with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, General Wagner became known as “the Dueler” and Charlotte as “the Queen.” They were the King and Queen of the mythical Kingdom of Dragoon, a conceit developed to encourage friendly competition between the three squadrons and their “Dukes,” as they guarded the border of the free world at the height of the Cold War. General and Mrs. Wagner were known as Dueler and Queen from that time onward.

After retiring from the Army in 1990, General and Mrs. Wagner remained in the Tidewater area of Virginia. General Wagner fulfilled his lifelong dream of writing a novel, The Sampan War, based loosely on his time in Vietnam, and worked for five years at Norfolk State University as a special assistant to the President for recruitment and retention. When he finally retired for good, he remained active in the Kiwanis Club and the Old Point Comfort Yacht Club, for which he served as Commodore for several years. He served as a docent at the Mariner’s Museum, where he gave a rousing presentation on the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe. And, in one of his favorite roles, he read to school children at Barron Elementary School in Hampton as “Story Bob.” He was never happier than when one of his former “children” recognized and hailed him.
He also maintained a close connection to Cadet Command and to the Virginia Military Institute, speaking every year at the Marshall Awards. His family is grateful to the wonderful people at VMI and Cadet Command who so kindly supported and assisted him in his later years.

General Wagner is survived by his children, Caryn Anne Wagner of Arlington, Virginia and her husband, Major Carlyle Lash (USA, RETIRED); Robert Edwin Wagner, Jr. of Colleyville, Texas and his wife, Kristen Esbensen Wagner; and Kristen Wagner Rarig of Smithfield, Virginia, and her husband, Colonel Jeffrey Rarig (USA, RETIRED). He also leaves four grandchildren, Kary Wagner Nowlin and Kyli Wagner of Colleyville, Texas, and First Lieutenant Amy Ferguson, USA, and Katie Rarig of Northern Virginia. One of General Wagner’s last official acts was officiating at the commissioning ceremony of his granddaughter, Amy, at the College of William and Mary, from which all three of his children graduated and where he had commissioned his daughter, Caryn, in 1979. General Wagner is also survived by his brother, Frank Wagner, and his wife, Jean, of Arnold, Maryland. A funeral at Arlington National Ceremony is being planned before the end of the year. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the VMI Foundation Center for Leadership and Ethics (http://www.vmi.edu/Foundation/).

15 comments

  1. alex collins

    MG Robert E. “Dueler” Wagner was the Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for Marneland, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mech), in Germany not the 1st Infantry Division as noted above. Otherwise, this is the best obit for The Dueler I’ve read.

  2. It was an honor to meet the “Dueler” as he spent his last years in Smithfield. I will always remember the glory stories he told, and the gleam in his eyes when he told them. I will cherish my copy of the “Sampan Wars”.

  3. As a very young 11D in 78-80, I looked up to then-COL Wagner as an inspiration of what a calvaryman should be. Boisterous and rebelious to political correctness. I lost track of his carrer and figured he probably didn’t get promoted after implimenting the black baret and ahead of its time camoflage painting of our vehicles. Good, tough cold war times.

    • We were wearing black berets on the border long before Dueler showed up on the scene. I think they went back to about 1970-71 or so. They were wearing them in January ’74 when I got there.

  4. Rhet Tignor

    Bob and I were active in the Old Comfort Yacht club, both serving as commodores and other roles. We raced as “jib & main” sailors off of old point comfort. Bob was the toughest opponent on the water, but always ready to hoist a glass after the race. He was very helpful in my political campaigns. I remember his tireless work on my behalf and his expectation that I would work to justify the confidence he placed in me. He was never shy about any of that. God bless Bob.

  5. I was in 2/2 acr hht from 1977 to 1980 and Col.Wagner was the man. We wore our black berats with pride in Bamberg. Everyone knew when we were around. In Support plooton we knew everyone in the other troops for we were the wheels to the machine. From chow to bullets we haul it for the best tankers in the army. SPEC.4 O.PETERS(P-FUNK) ALWAYS READY SECOND TO NONE

    • P-funk. I got to 3/2 ACR in October of 1979 so it’s possible we chewed some of the same ground. I hated to read Dueler 6 passed away but Fiddlers Green is a nice place to spend eternity. Always ready my brother.

  6. I was assigned to 3rd sqdn 2nd ACR from 1979-1981,3rd sqdn was based in Amberg Germany then and the then Col. Wagner was a larger than life officer who inspired us to be better than we ever thought we could be. I had the honor of driving the command track on one of his field problems “Dueler’s Challenge” and i learned more in 2 years under his command than at any of my other postings. Dueler 6, king of the realm rest well in Fiddler’s Green. Always ready sir.

  7. CPT(ret) Bobby Crockett

    I served in 1/2 Cav from July 1977 to July 1980, so my service overlapped that of the 59th and 60th Colonels of the Regiment. The Dueler brought Panache back to the Dragoons. We learned to fight using aggressive manuever. I chewed a lot of dust & dirt from my M113 cupola. We got new ones just before Dueler time. Mine went from 7 miles to over 3,300 miles in a little over 2 years. I have a lot of Dueler stories, but they’ll have to wait for Fiddler’s Green. Always Ready, Sir!

  8. mark kubista

    Served with him in the 10th and then 2d Cav. Never knew a more professional and inspiring man. His speech to the Regiment after the hostages were taken in Iran was something for the book. We’d have road marched all the way there to get them back. His wife was quite a lady.

  9. John Barradale

    Assigned Combat Aviation Troop, C&C Squadron, 2nd ACR, Fuecht Army Airfield and Nurnberg, Germany. Had to pleasure to see Colonel Wagner a lot. I liked the berets. I hated it when some Congressman thought it wrong to have them. Instead of baseball like caps, he had us use Army Ranger soft caps. I still remember when he ordered us to arm with with live rounds and head north when vehicles were reported on the Ghost Autobahn.
    Always Ready. Charge Hard.

  10. John Tackett

    Served 1979 to 1983 in 2nd ACR , 359th ASA , I remember the Berets and the border caps , I was a guard during a war plan meeting between the Dueler and General Lewis Beckton , The General started chewing the Dueler out because we were wearing Ranger Caps instead of steel pots on Border patrol . The Colonel told him sir the border tab on their caps will stop a round as well as a steel pot . The general just laughed and said I give up Colonel . He was a very good Commander and a good Man .I loved it when he would tell the officers to go to back of the formation because he wanted to talk to the Men . RIP Sir , I will report directly to your HQ when I get to Fiddlers Green.

  11. My first butt chewing as a young LT came from the Dueler at Hohenfels in August 1982 when he was ADC (M) for 3ID. It was a good one, too!

    He instituted Marne Maneuver in the division with lots of buzzwords for different formations and actions – the one that sticks with me the most is “Thunder Run” (all out mounted assault) and we used it in 3ID twenty years before 2nd Brigade, 3ID’s Thunder Run into Baghdad!

  12. James Morningstar

    As an impressionable young Cavalryman in 2/2ACR from 76-79 (then) Col. Wagner was the epitome the expression “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t…..” Always Ready, Second to None, Sir.

  13. 2nd Acr Scout 77-83. (THEN) col WAGNER WAS THE BEST. REMENBER WHEN A EAST GWERMAN HELICOPTER KEPT MESSING WITH HIM ALONG THE BORDER. TOLD US SCOUTS TO PULL THE PIN ON THE 60′S, LOAD AND MOVE UP TO HIS POSITION. THE BIRD DROPPED SMOKE AND GOT OUT OF THERE. ALWAYS READY SIR. SEE YOU IN FIDDLERS GREEN.

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